Four Short Stories
Pere Merlier's mill, one beautiful summer evening, was arranged for a grand fete. In the
courtyard were three tables, placed end to end, which awaited the guests. Everyone knew
that Francoise, Merlier's daughter, was that night to be betrothed to Dominique, a young
man who was accused of idleness but whom the fair sex for three leagues around gazed at
with sparkling eyes, such a fine appearance had he.
Pere Merlier's mill was pleasing to look upon. It stood exactly in the center of Rocreuse,
where the highway made an elbow. The village had but one street, with two rows of huts,
a row on each side of the road; but at the elbow meadows spread out, and huge trees
which lined the banks of the Morelle covered the extremity of the valley with lordly
shade. There was not, in all Lorraine, a corner of nature more adorable. To the right and
to the left thick woods, centenarian forests, towered up from gentle slopes, filling the
horizon with a sea of verdure, while toward the south the plain stretched away, of
marvelous fertility, displaying as far as the eye could reach patches of ground divided by
green hedges. But what constituted the special charm of Rocreuse was the coolness of
that cut of verdure in the most sultry days of July and August. The Morelle descended
from the forests of Gagny and seemed to have gathered the cold from the foliage beneath
which it flowed for leagues; it brought with it the murmuring sounds, the icy and
concentrated shade of the woods. And it was not the sole source of coolness: all sorts of
flowing streams gurgled through the forest; at each step springs bubbled up; one felt, on
following the narrow pathways, that there must exist subterranean lakes which pierced
through beneath the moss and availed themselves of the smallest crevices at the feet of
trees or between the rocks to burst forth in crystalline fountains. The whispering voices of
these brooks were so numerous and so loud that they drowned the song of the bullfinches.
It was like some enchanted park with cascades falling from every portion.
Below the meadows were damp. Gigantic chestnut trees cast dark shadows. On the
borders of the meadows long hedges of poplars exhibited in lines their rustling branches.
Two avenues of enormous plane trees stretched across the fields toward the ancient
Chateau de Gagny, then a mass of ruins. In this constantly watered district the grass grew
to an extraordinary height. It resembled a garden between two wooded hills, a natural
garden, of which the meadows were the lawns, the giant trees marking the colossal flower
beds. When the sun's rays at noon poured straight downward the shadows assumed a
bluish tint; scorched grass slept in the heat, while an icy shiver passed beneath the